Game Design {TDA580 | DIT040}
Part of the Interaction Design Master's programme at the University of Gothenburg & Chalmers

Last update: 2010-02-25

Latest news:

20100222: Postponed deadline for assignments 3D and 4, and changes in supervision times
20100208: Changes to schedule due to CHARM
20100108: Updated web page.

Course Information
Game Design focuses on how rules and game components can be used to create game environments that encourage and support specific interaction between humans and computer systems or between humans directly. The aims of these environments can differ widely. They can be completely focused upon entertainment, exploring experimental virtual environments (in for example the automobile or aircraft industry), or on supporting the training of specific tasks for professional or therapeutical reasons. The course covers design methods that can be applied in all these fields.

The course is based upon a series of exercises and projects that are informed by lectures and workshops. The projects are done in group and supported by supervision meetings and aim at giving students practical experience in creating and developing game concepts.

Course Examinor:
Staffan Björk, staffan.bjork(.)

Course Literature
Fullerton, T., Swain, C., & Hoffman, S. (2004) Game Design Workshop, CMP Books, 2004. ISBN: 0240809742. Available from Cremona (and online bookshops). Slides from lectures will be available after the presentation (slides from previous years will be available for some lectures before the lectures).

Learning Objectives
By successfully completing the course, a student should be able to:

  • Understand the role of a game designer within a game design project
  • Motivate different perspectives on games and use of games, both from practical and ethical aspects
  • Discuss game design features explicitly using both de facto industry concepts and academic frameworks
  • Pitch game design concepts for an audience
  • Relate current game designs to earlier examples, from the direct predecessors to the first recorded examples
  • Plan game design projects according to best practice descriptions
  • Develop a game design concept from initial idea to a full game design document, using iterative design processes and prototyping
  • Specify target audiences and develop specific game design concepts for specific target audiences
  • Analyze different game design using analytical tools (such as game design patterns) to be able to A) suggest design changes and B) compare different game designs.

Course Structure
The course consists of four parts: lectures, exercises, mandatory assignments, and elective assignments.

The lectures provide theorectical concepts and models, examples, and provding an arena for common discussions. Although not mandatory some of the assignments are difficult to complete without being at the lecture since the presentations expand upon the lectures slides rather than repeating them verbatim. In addition, changes and updates may be missed.

The slides are available for download. Observe that the presentations available at the beginning of the course come from previous year's course. Updated versions will be available after the lectures have been given.

  • Introduction & Definitions of Games [pdf] [ppt]
  • A History of Games [pdf] [ppt]
  • Analyzing Games [pdf] [ppt]
  • Game Design Patterns and other Analytical Tools [pdf] [ppt]
  • Design Goals and Design Methods [pdf] [ppt]
  • Games as Social Activities [pdf] [ppt]
  • Game as System [pdf] [ppt] (old)
  • Themes and Narratives [pdf] [ppt] (old)
3 design exercises done during workshops in groups of 5-6 people (to give practical experience). The exercises are mandatory and reported at the end of the workshop. The exercises are available for download:

Exercise 1 | Exercise 2 | Exercise 3 | Extra Exercise 4 | Extra Exercise 5

(the extra assignments should be done individually and handed in electronically if you have missed one of the group exercises; do one for each exercise missed)

Mandatory Assignments
The mandatory assignments consists of 2 smaller assignments done in groups of 1 and 2 people respectively, and 2 larger individual assignment done in groups of 4 and 1 people respectively. The small assignments are aimed at training reflection with gameplay design issues while the large assignments allow students to show how they can collect, analyze and syntesize information regarding a specific domain of gameplay. The assignments are numbered 1 to 4 in the order they should be handed in, with 4 being the individual assignment. The specific requirements for the assignments and presentations are described on a separate page.

All assignments are to be handed in as attachments to e-mails sent to the course examiner. Those that do not comply with the following rules risk failing the assignments:

  • Having a subject line using the format "Gameplay Design 2010: Assignment [x]"
  • Having the attachments names using the format "[Last Name],[First Name] Assignment [x]"
  • Personalizing the bracket parts of the above instructions
In addition to handing in written reports, the third assignment requires a pre-report, a prototype demonstration, and a oral presentation (see the assignment page for details).

Elective Assignments
Two elective assignments are available for students who want to further hone their skills in gameplay design. These assignments require extra time and effort but are rewarded by extra points (see grading section below) if done well.

Both elective assignments can be done in groups ranging from 1 to 4, but preferably at least 3.

Elective Assignment 1 - Kudo Game
Kudo is a platform developed by Microsoft to allow kids to create games using the XBox 360 controller and a simple visual programming language.

This assignment requires you to make an non-trivial game on the Kudo platform in 24 hours, which will require that you learn the visual programming language and work within severe graphical, memory, and gameplay constraints.

This assignment can be done at any time before the 26th of February, contact Staffan by email to set up a start and end meeting.

Learning Objective: by using the Kudo platform, you will have to focus upon gameplay rather that technical issues while making a game in just one day. Further, you will gain experience in being creative within a constraint setting.

Note: this assignment requires that you install the Kudo software which is available on PC and XBox 360. The PC version can provided by Staffan but the XBox 360 version needs to be bought by yourself. 360 Controller may be available for loan, contact Staffan by email.

Elective Assignment 2 - Game Jam Participation
The Global Game Jam is an event where people make games in 48 hours, sharing their ideas and games with each other to learn and be inspired. Creating a group that participates in the global game jam and hands in a game at the end of the jam is the second elective assignment. See the local game jam site for more information.

This assignment takes place from 17.00 January 29th to 17.00 January 31st. Those wishing to be able to receive extra points for the assignment should sign up before the 27th by emailing Staffan.

Learning Objective: by doing this assignment, you will have some hands-on experience on creating small games under strict deadlines. Further, you will have the opportunity to be inspired by what other students all over the world come up with.

Note: this assignment requires you to work during a weekend and during late and/or early hours.

The game jam has been, but check the local game jam site for links to the games created by the students in the course.

Lectures always take place between 10.00-12.00 and mostly at SV 118, floor 1, house Svea, campus Lindholmen. See here for map (the link "Forskningsgängen 6" to the right) and floor plans ("Ritningar över byggnaderna"). Locations for exercises will be announced later. Supervision is on first come first serve basis in Staffan's office, house Svea, floor 4.

Important Dates:

The grading of the assignments will be done as quickly as possible to provide feedback for the next assignments.

Examination and Grading

Grades are U (fail), 3, 4, or 5 for Chalmers students and U (fail), G (pass) or VG (pass with distinction) for GU students. Each assignment gives points towards the final grade. The difference between mandatory and elective assignments are that the mandatory once have a minimum score to pass and no passing grade will be given for the course unless one has passed all mandatory assignments.

AssignmentMinimum Points neededMaximum points possible

Note that the oral presentation is considered a group effort even though not all participants need to talk; the students not presenting should have participated in the creation of the presentation.

The total sum of the points received for each assignment determines the final grade as follows:


The level for receiving a VG grade is the same as for receiving a grade 5.

Suggested Readings

Printed Material

  • Crawford, C. The Art of Computer Game Design, 1992.
  • Crawford, C. The Art of Interactive Design, 2002.
  • Crawford, C. Chris Crawford on Game Design, 2003.
  • Dear, William C. The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, 1984.
  • Demaria, R. & Wilson, J. L. High Score! The Illustrated History of Electronic Games, 2002.
  • King, B. & Borland, J. Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic, 2003.
  • Koster, R. A theory of fun, 2004.
  • Kushner, D. Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture, Random House, 2004.
  • Schuessler, N. & Jackson, S. Game Design - Volume 1: Theory and Practice, 2005 (1981)
  • Valve. Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, 2004.

Online Resources
The following links can provide useful material for the assignments, especially the two last assignments.


©2003 id|c